Water Agencies May Again Try To Wrangle Out of $204,000 Fine

Clockwork told you in May about the San Diego region staff of the state's Regional Water Control Board recommending the South Orange County Wastewater Authority--which collects, treats, reuses and disposes of waste water for 10 South County agencies--and the South Coast Water District--an independent agency that serves the water and sewer needs of 40,000 residents in Dana Point, South Laguna and north San Clemente--pay a $204,000 fine.

This was for violations of state permit restrictions concerning the discharge of brine and waste water from the district's Groundwater Recovery Facility and into the San Juan Creek Ocean Outfall. The targeted agencies first appealed to the local regional board, which sided with staff. So they appealed to the state board in Sacramento. They just struck out there, too, reports the Orange County Register. As you'll read below from the Reg's OC Watchdog blog, the agencies are contemplating another appeal.

Folks at South Coast are bummed - not just because of the fine's large size (the district can afford it), but because it bodes ill for the  future of recycled water there. 

South Coast hoped to double the amount of drinking water it pumps from the ground - to 20 percent of its supply - but that will be impossible as things stand.

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"We're disappointed," said general manager Mike Dunbar.

The district will likely appeal, said district counsel Betty Burnett.

The facility treats low-quality groundwater to produce potable water, but that process also generates extremely salty waste water whose re-entry into the creek's ocean mouth is regulated under the state permit that became effective in October 2006. The regional board's assistant executive officer issued an Administrative Civil Liability Complaint against the two agencies on Feb. 27 for 68 alleged violations of "total suspended solids, settleable solids, and turbidity effluent limitations that occurred from August 2007 through October 2008."

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